In an effort to look good, fit in or feel good about their appearance, too many women make common sartorial mistakes that affect their spinal health. High heels and overly heavy bags are two of the main culprits that cause back pain, headaches and other ailments.
If you're in pain and don't know why, it might be time to reconsider your fashion choices, said New York chiropractor and health-care expert Dr. Karen Erickson, a fellow of the American College of Chiropractic: "Even the biggest fashionista won't look her best if her outfit is causing aches and pains."
"Many women ... are very fashion-forward, but they're also on their feet all day long carrying everything they need for the day in a bag over their shoulder. They're commuting from the bus or train or walking far distances in heels. They're carrying laptops and gym clothes, lunch and water bottles," Erickson said. All that adds up to aching feet, backs, shoulders and other body parts.
Women deserve both beauty and health. Here are a few of Erickson's tips to get both:
Choose comfortable shoes
If you must wear high heels, bring a pair of flat shoes along to change into should you become uncomfortable. If you want to walk to work, wear flats with good arch support and change into work-appropriate shoes when you arrive at your office.
"When your feet are in high heels they're in what I call the 'Barbie-doll position.' It pounds toes and foot pads into the pavement," said Erickson. "A lower heel puts less pressure on the forefoot."
Another good option is platforms, which give women height yet still allow the foot to roll through a range of motion and allow the foot to lie in a flatter position.
Try the shake test
When choosing slip-on footwear, such as classic pumps or ballet flats, do the "shake test." Shake your foot and if your shoe doesn't fall off, then the shoe properly fits. If it does fall off, it means you're scrunching your toes while you walk in order to keep the shoe secure. Ballet flats, mules and clogs can force you to scrunch your toes, altering your gait and stressing your feet and spine.
“Look for shoes with arch support and an ankle strap that makes the shoe stay on the foot," Erickson said.
It's in the bag
While oversized bags may be trendy, they don't distribute their weight evenly across the shoulders, and that interrupts your normal gait, Erickson said. When walking with a bag or purse, you should be able to swing the opposite arm and leg to walk in a cross-crawl gait.
"I get why these gorgeous handbags are so popular, but there are many lines of small backpacks that are both fashionable and business-appropriate and don't make you look like a fourth-grader," she said.
When carrying a bag or briefcase, switch sides frequently to avoid placing the burden of the weight on one side of your body. Empty unnecessary items from your bag daily to reduce its weight.
Or "try a crossbody bag that will allow your shoulders to relax, ease normal tension," Erickson said.
It's important to consider where a handbag hits you when you walk. You don't want to wear a purse so long that it knocks you in the legs, or so high that you can't swing your arms. Both can create problems with your gait and trigger neck, shoulder or back pain.